MALACAÑANG and several lawmakers on Friday joined the nation in mourning the death of former senator Ernesto “Boy” Herrera.
”We join the nation in mourning the death of former senator Ernesto “Boy” Herrera. He served the country with distinction as a legislator, trade union leader and as a human right advocate for which he also received international recognition,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a statement.
”He will also be remembered as one of those who took a stand for restoring democracy in our land,” Coloma added.
Herrera, a former trade union leader, died of cardiac arrest on Thursday at the Manila Doctors Hospital. He was 73.
His remains were brought to the Heritage Memorial Park in Taguig City (Metro Manila) for public viewing until Tuesday and will be transferred to the Senate for a scheduled necrological service. It will then be taken to Cebu on Wednesday evening.
Herrera served as senator for two terms in 1987 and 1992 and represented the first district of Bohol during the 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th Congresses. He was general secretary and president of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines.
He wrote an opinion column for The Manila Times. His last piece, which was published October 27, he took the Aquino administration to task for its failure to improve the plight of workers.
“A lot of Filipinos are still worried about the same things as before: jobs and food on their tables. And the government still has the same problem: how to make the country’s relatively good economy matter to most people who are barely eking out a living or are downright desperate,” his final column read.
Herrera was the third former senator to die this year after Joker Arroyo succumbed reportedly to heart failure last October 5 and Agapito “Butz” Aquino last August.
Vice President Jejomar Binay remembers Herrera for his role in the Agrava fact-finding board, an independent body formed to investigate the assassination of former senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. in 1983.
Herrera–then 41 years old–was the youngest member of the investigative panel named after its chairman, then-justice Corazon Juliano Agrava.
The Agrava Commission found no sufficient evidence to link President Ferdinand Marcos and his wife, Imelda, or businessman Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr. to the killing of Aquino at the Manila International Airport.
“As a member of the Agrava Commission, he defied expectations by voting to prosecute Fabian Ver and ranking AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] officers for the murder of Ninoy Aquino. As a legislator, he made his mark as one of the first to speak against the drug menace and the complicity of men in uniform in the drug trade.
“Boy Herrera served the workers and the nation unselfishly and undeterred by his polio. He stands tall in the pantheon of great Filipinos,” Binay said in a statement.
Senate President Franklin Drilon also mourned the passing of his friend and former colleague whom he described as a tireless crusader for the welfare of the Filipino worker.
”I have known Boy for decades and I witnessed how committed he was in fighting for the cause, rights and welfare of millions of our workers. He was a giant of Philippine labor.
Our country’s workers have lost a champion,” Drilon, a labor minister in the first Aquino administration, said.
”I am proud to have worked and shared the Senate floor with such a principled and distinguished public servant. He will remain an inspiration to all of us,” he added.
Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. expressed condolences to the family of Herrera.
”We have lost a strong pillar of the labor sector, who took it as his mission in life to champion the causes, rights and welfare of Filipino workers. He was also a tireless and courageous crusader against the drug menace,” Marcos said.
”We are indebted to him for his service to our country. We owe it to him to pursue the trail he blazed for us, particularly in improving the lot of our Filipino workers,” the senator from Ilocos Norte added.
Susan Ople, daughter of the late Blas Ople who was Herrera’s bosom buddy in the Senate, echoed Binay’s statement.
“Sen. Boy Herrera stood up for the common man as labor leader, fought against drug syndicates when he was senator, and became a shining light of truth and democracy as a member of the Agrava Commission.
“Words shall never be enough to describe his passion for the labor movement. That passion extends to all OFWs [overseas Filipino workers]around the world who continue to derive government protection from the Migrant Workers’ Act of 1995 which he authored. I will miss him the most as my mentor, former boss and dearest friend,” Ople said.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. also extended his sympathy and offered prayers for the late senator.
“Boy has been a senator and a hardworking and vocal member of the House during the 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th Congresses representing the First District of Bohol,” he said.
“We join our fellow Filipinos and his family in mourning his loss, especially those in our trade unions who have looked up to Boy’s leadership of many years.
“We thank Boy Herrera for his valuable service to our nation and its people as we pray for his eternal rest,” Belmonte said.